November 28, 2023
There is no legal definition of bullying, however the universal definition of bullying is “the behaviour of a person who hurts or frightens someone smaller or less powerful, often forcing that person to do something they do not want to do.” Source: Cambridge Dictionary.
Some examples of bullying behaviour in the workplace include:
- Exclusion from office communications and gatherings, both professional and social
- Unwarranted criticism about performance in general and during performance reviews
- Intimidation; setting staff members up to fail and threatening job security
- Belittling; taking promotions, training opportunities or managerial roles away
- Cyber bullying using social media, text messaging or email
These examples showcase an abuse of power and authority which consequently lead to work-related stress. Although bullying at work can result in claims for constructive dismissal and harassment, it isn’t always considered as harassment under the Equality Act.
What to Do If You Are Being Bullied at Work?
If the bullying isn’t considered as harassment, this doesn’t mean it should be tolerated. Here are some ways to deal with it effectively in the workplace.
- Keep a Record: If the bullying behaviour continues over a period of time, it’s useful to keep a log of every occurrence for future reference. When action is taken, this log can be used as evidence behind bullying claims.
- Seek Advice: Whether it be an employee representative, a human resources consultant, a manager or a supervisor, sharing experiences with other members of staff will raise awareness and help dictate how to handle it.
- Talk to the Bully Directly: One option is to approach the bully directly to inform them that their behaviour is unacceptable. It’s important to remain calm when confronting them, and clearly explain what’s been occurring as they may be unaware. If necessary, ask someone else to talk to them or ask a colleague to join the conversation for support.
- Make a Formal Complaint: If the problem cannot be solved informally, the next step is to make a formal complaint following the grievance procedure. If the problem continues after this, it may be time to think about taking legal action.
When Does Workplace Bullying Turn Into Harassment?
It is not possible to go to an employment tribunal solely for bullying claims. However, bullying in the workplace may be considered as harassment under the Equality Act 2010; this includes if problems are still occurring after following the grievance procedure. Complaints can then be made under discrimination and harassment laws.
Some examples of harassment in the workplace include:
- Making offensive comment, jokes or physical gestures
- Asking extremely personal questions
- Showcasing content around the office that make people feel uncomfortable
Even if colleagues claim this behaviour is friendly banter, it may still meet the definition of harassment in the Equality Act.
How to Make a Legal Claim for Bullying & Harassment
As mentioned above, it’s not possible to go to an employment tribunal solely for bullying claims, however, if employer actions have breached the trust of the relationship, it is possible to make a claim for constructive dismissal.
It is possible to go to an employment tribunal for harassment claims as well as making a claim for constructive dismissal after resigning. Again, there would need to be evidence that employer actions have breached the trust of the relationship.
In order to make a claim for constructure dismissal, the length of employment must be at least 23 months and 3 weeks, not including a notice period. Also, lodging a grievance before resignation is expected.
Whether you’ve left your employment due to bullying or you’re looking to make a legal claim for harassment, it’s important to get professional advice before taking the next steps. Premier Legal’s employment law experts are here to help and answer any questions you may have. Get in touch today to find out more.